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Sharp Health News

Is running bad for your knees?

Nov. 1, 2017

Is running bad for your knees?

Running often gets a bad rap for ruining your knees. Some people even use it as an excuse to get out of this type of exercise. In fact, there are many misconceptions about running and the impact on your body.

Dr. Michael Sirota, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, addresses five common questions about running and your joints.

1. Is running bad for your knees?
Running is not bad for your knees. Running is certainly a high-impact activity, and as such can exacerbate or inflame underlying knee conditions. However, there is no data to show that running actually causes knee problems. Getting a running assessment prior to starting a running program can help protect your knees from injury and joint trouble.

2. Can running cause arthritis or osteoarthritis?
Contrary to popular belief, running does not cause arthritis or osteoarthritis. However, if you’re at a higher risk and have a history of arthritis in your family, this can develop whether you are a runner or not. A new study finds that the activity may in fact benefit the joint, changing the biochemical environment inside the knee in ways that could help keep it working smoothly.

3. What can contribute to knee injury?
The most common reason for early knee degeneration is obesity. According to experts, being overweight or obese causes osteoarthritis by the increased pressure on the knee and hip joints. Excessive weight can put stress on joints and promote the cartilage damage that often leads to osteoarthritis. Genetics has a role as well, as arthritis does run in families. Other causes, such as specific injuries, also can play a role, and often these relate to muscle tightness or overtraining.

4. Runner’s knee is a common running injury. What is runner’s knee?
Runner’s knee is a common term for patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is not limited to runners. It’s a very common reason for knee pain, especially anterior knee pain (pain in the front of the knee). It is caused by increased pressure between the patella (kneecap) and the front portion of the femur (thigh bone). Some people are predisposed to this because of the alignment of their leg; others have correctable muscle or gait imbalances that exacerbate patellofemoral pressure.

5. What suggestions do you have for treatment of runner’s knee?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is most commonly treated with physical therapy, which can strengthen muscles that are relatively weak and help correct improper running mechanics. Less frequently, it can be treated with surgery if that becomes necessary.

“Running can be an excellent way to maintain cardiovascular health and fitness,” says Dr. Sirota. “This is the most important factor in long-term knee health.”

Experiencing chronic knee pain? Find an orthopedic doctor who’s right for you.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Sirota about running and your joints for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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